A Liturgy for a Miscarried Child

William_Turner_-_Shade_and_Darkness_-_the_Evening_of_the_DelugeWe are made for life. Everything in our humanity cries out against death. Strangely, and shockingly, we’ve come to accept the ‘fact’ of death (and even, in some cases, to benefit from it), especially when it concerns those who have ‘had a good innings’. But one of the toughest gigs is to bury a child. Only one who has lost a child can know the journey from enrapture at the news that ‘we’re pregnant’, to the birth of dreams and laughter, to losing the grip on hope, and … well, to the great emptiness.

Many of those who ‘lose’ a child – including a child in utero – feel that they want to remember rightly, to honour life, and to thank God for the life given – and taken – from them. For some, this means intentional time together with God, to give thanks, to listen, to get angry, to see if God might listen, to bury the ‘body’, to protest.

About a year ago, it fell to me to conduct a ‘private’ funeral service for a child which had died in utero (at 11 weeks). Disappointingly, among all the resources that I had at hand for preparing a funeral liturgy (and I have a decent amount of them), I had absolutely nothing for funerals in the case of a miscarriage. I was shocked, and deeply bothered, that while I could find prepared liturgies for children who had died in infancy, or as stillborns, I looked in vain for words that might gather up the feelings surrounding the 10-20% of pregnancies that end in miscarriage. So in the end, I scrambled together my own.

The liturgy I pulled together in haste remains a work-in-progress, but rather than wait I wanted to make it available in the hope that it might be a helpful resource for others. Note that the couple in question had ‘named’ their child with an in utero ‘name’. It was this ‘name’ that was used in the service.

Please feel entirely free to adapt and use it as seems appropriate for your context. I would greatly welcome any suggestions.

A Liturgy for a Miscarried Child

 

Gathering

We are here together to worship God, to thank God for God’s love, and to remember [name] short life with us on earth; to share our grief and to commend [name] to God’s eternal care. We meet in the hope that while death is the great enemy, death is not the end, but the new beginning, and so may be faced without fear, bitterness or guilt, but in faith, hope and love.

Readings

‘God bent his bow and aimed it squarely at me. He shot his arrows deep into my heart … He has filled me with bitterness. He has given me a cup of deep sorrow to drink. He has made me grind my teeth on gravel. He has rolled me in the dust.Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!” The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The LORD is wonderfully good to those who wait for him and seek him’. (Lamentations 3:12–25)

‘Where shall I go to escape your spirit? Where shall I flee from your presence? If I scale the heavens you are there, if I lie flat in Sheol, there you are. If I speed away on the wings of the dawn, if I dwell beyond the ocean, even there your hand will be guiding me, your right hand holding me fast. I will say, ‘Let the darkness cover me, and the night wrap itself around me,’ even darkness to you is not dark, and night is as clear as the day. You created my inmost self, knit me together in my mother’s womb. For so many marvels I thank you; a wonder am I, and all your works are wonders. You knew me through and through, my being held no secrets from you, when I was being formed in secret, textured in the depths of the earth. Your eyes could see my embryo. In your book all my days were inscribed, every one that was fixed is there’. (Psalm 139:7–16)

Silence

Prayer

Merciful Father, before you formed us in the womb you knew us as a mother. You make nothing in vain and you love all that you have made. You are the God of unfailing compassion, and you too know what it is like to lose a child. In your creative love and tenderness you gave us [name], so full of hope for the future. You are the source of all our lives, the strength of all our days. You did not make us for darkness and death but to see you face to face and to enjoy abundant life. We praise you for with you nothing is wasted or incomplete, and all things are upheld and made whole with your love. Help us to comfort one another with the comfort we receive from you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

We pray for [name]. We ask that any trauma that [name] may have felt in those last days, hours or moments may be met with your healing. We pray that [name] may continue to grow physically and to mature emotionally, unfrightened and secure in your love, and excited about knowing you as [name] Father. We thank you that [name] is in your care where there is no more dying, or tears or pain. And we thank you for giving us every reason to hope that one day we might meet [name] face to face, and in that long-awaited embrace, know afresh that you are the promise-keeping Lord of life.

Readings

‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God’. (Mark 10:14)

‘I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord’. (Romans 8:38–39)

Silence

Apostles’ Creed

We believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, [never before had I felt the pastoral power of this part of the confession so forcefully]
and life everlasting.

Prayer of Committal

Gracious God, we commit [name] into your ever-caring and gentle love; [name] brought the promise of joy to our lives, and to those closest to us, for such a short time; enfold [name] now in your mighty and eternal life of love, in the name of the risen One who was born and died and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit for ever.

Blessing for [name]

[name], the Lord bless thee, and keep thee,

The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be merciful unto thee, The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. (Numbers 6:24–26)

Reading

‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making all things new!” … And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega – the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give the springs of the water of life without charge! All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children’. (Revelation 21:1–7)

17 thoughts on “A Liturgy for a Miscarried Child

  1. this is a superb resource. Having been through the horror myself, I can only imagine that others will benefit from this. I am passing it along and hope you don’t mind Jason.

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  2. Jason, in response to your post, i have also posted a premature death liturgy i curated recently. (http://tinyurl.com/mdyz72) if there is a dearth of resources, as you note, then another might help, so perhaps you could link to it?

    an excellent resource i’ve found is Abigail Rian Evans, Healing liturgies for the seasons of life. it has a wealth of services for a whole range of life events.

    steve
    wwww.emergentkiwi.org.nz

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  3. Jason
    I followed this link from Steve’s web site and have some other NZ resources that people might find helpful. Things that helped me following miscarriage have been the planting of a tree and creation of memory album. But we too had to make up our own funeral service which we did just as a family.
    These may be of help
    http://www.skylight.org.nz/ (grief books for kids)
    http://www.thelostones.co.nz (on line candles for

    http://www.sands.org.nz/

    Thank you for sharing this liturgy and i too am forwarding it to my friends at sands

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  4. Steve and Jo, many thanks for your comments, and for the sharing of these resources. It’s very encouraging to know that there’s other stuff out there that others have found helpful.

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  5. Pingback: State of Formation - Miscarriage and Support

  6. Even 2-3 years later this is so useful. Thank you. I am putting a service together for a young person who has just had a miscarriage. I have never been asked to do this before but she is a young person of faith. Thank you for giving me a place to start. God bless.

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  7. You’re most welcome Sarah. I’m pleased that you were able to locate these and that they may prove useful. As I mentioned in the post, I was struggling too at the time to find suitable resources. I’d love to see what you create for this difficult service.

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  8. Hi, Thank you so much for posting this! There is not a lot of resources for services like this and it’s hard when you are asked to plan one. I am a chaplain at a hospital and am working on a resource to help other chaplains at our hospital and was wondering if it would be okay with you if I printed out this blog to add it to the resources to help others who may have to plan a service. I understand if you don’t, I just wanted to ask. Thank you!

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  9. Thank you for this. Tomorrow our family will be burying our baby, who died at 8 weeks’ gestation. We’ll be using a version of this service.

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  10. I lost my little baby last night — miscarried after 10 weeks. My husband and I will bury the child tonight, and we needed something to guide us through it. Thank you for posting this.

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  11. Thanks for posting this. I am looking for resources and liturgy samples for writing a liturgy for emergency infant baptism in the hospital as a hospital chaplain. Thanks so much for sharing this it will be helpful.

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  12. Thanks for creating this resource. My husband and I just suffered another miscarriage this week. We will use this for a private service with just the two of us this evening to remember and honor the baby.

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